iPod/iPhone/iPad controls, not really that hard

Jul 28, 2011

Tags: , , ;

I was at a friend's house last week and I was shocked when he said "I really wish I could control what my kids do with their iPhones and iPods". It was almost this helpless, "Oh well" tone from him.

I personally have a policy with my kids and my home that I don't buy any technology unless I feel like I can manage the use of the technology and the kind of content arriving to the device. I must the the "meanest dad in our whole neighborhood" according to my 10 year old.

Last winter when my daughter asked for an iPod touch for Christmas my immediate reaction was, "sorry, I don't want you spending all day watching youtube videos" and "I don't think having a mobile web browser in the hand of a 10 year old all day is the best idea", and "when you are 10 there is no need for a facebook account". Not to mention I wasn't thrilled about the cost associated with "paying Santa" to bring an expensive Apple toy. "But the cost is an entirely different blog topic"

I recognize that many parents have absolutely no issue with this kind of thing, and many that read this might think that I am an "Internet Ogre" when it comes micro managing what my kids do online. I would be happy to have a healthy argument with anyone who thinks turning your children loose unsupervised online is a good parenting practice but again, "an entirely different blog topic".

After my conversation with my friend, I realized that the native parental controls in IOS might not be common knowledge to many parents. I want to share what I learned encase you are like my buddy and want to do something to help protect and manage your kids use of their iPhone, iPod, iPad.

I won't provide a step by step "how to" here, but on Apple IOS you can tap settings, then general, then restrictions. If you enable restrictions you are prompted to lock the restrictions with a PIN, and after setting up the PIN you can "lock" or "make disappear" many apps or option on the device and set movies and music ratings for media that you feel might be unacceptable for your child. For example: After setting up the restriction, I changed YouTube option to no, and the icon in my apps list "magically" disappeared on my daughters Ipod.

The list of things you can control via this console is fairly impressive and includes things such as

  • Remove access to the Safari Browser
  • Remove access to the YouTube application
  • Remove access to the FaceTime application
  • Stop the installation of new applications
  • Stop the addition or changes to accounts, (including email accounts, Wi-Fi networks)
  • Remove access to iTunes and the Apple App store.
  • Block in-app communications and purchases.
  • Block purchases
  • Control media based on ratings, age, or explicit lyrics.

When you start mixing and matching the features above and then you remove unwanted applications from the device you can do the math and see that a device can be relatively "locked down".

The available features vary and seem to get better with the later versions of IOS, but some variation of these features is found in most Apple devices. If you are interested in enabling these features I suggest you update to the latest version that your device will support.

I recognize these features may not provide a perfect solution for all ages and parenting styles, but it gave me what I needed, and when Net Nanny Mobile for IOS comes out in the very near future, I might lighten up some of these settings because I will be able to ensure my 10 year old will be monitored and safe while online.

For those of you that this is "old hat" please share it with your friends and family. I promise you know someone who has no idea these features exist.